Homebrewing One Step at a Time

Women_Drinkers_BrewBuzz-7by Susie Olsen

I’ve always believed it was good for people to have hobbies. You know, something that they enjoy doing, collecting, practicing, or playing. Something that reminds them that while they’re working that day-to-day job with the long and stressful hours, they can still come home (or go out) and do something that’s just for them. My first hobby was when I was 7 years old and I used to sit on the sidewalk in front of my house and try to sell rocks I’d found to unsuspecting strangers walking the block. Of course in my little 7 year old brain this was a completely normal hobby to have and would probably make me rich by the time I was 10 or so. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t a very high demand for rocks from my mother’s flower bed back then. Nonetheless, it made me happy and took up all my free time.

Now, let’s fast forward about 23 years to when I was first introduced to the world of craft beer. I didn’t fall in love with it overnight, but by the time I became fascinated by it, I knew that I needed to delve even deeper into it than just enjoying a nice cold beer every now and again. It was probably about a year later that I knew I had figured out what I wanted my new hobby to be: homebrewing. Having made a lot of new friends in the craft beer community, I found that the majority of them were homebrewers, and if they could do it, I could too! So, my boyfriend, Chris (with whom I fell in love with bonding over our shared love of beer), our friend Heath, and I teamed up to start homebrewing together. None of us had ever done it before, but we could figure it out, right? Between the 3 of us we knew plenty of other homebrewers and began getting advice and buying books. A book that I highly recommend to anyone interested in brewing is The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian.

This book covers everything from the equipment you’ll need, the terminology you’ll need to know, to how to properly clean everything you’ll need to begin the brewing process. The one thing I really didn’t realize going into brewing was how much time I would actually spend just cleaning things alone! Cleaning (and sanitizing) is such an important part of brewing that if you don’t do it properly or often enough the batch of beer you brew won’t come out tasting how it should.

Empty bottle sit in a box last week at Beer at Home in Englewood. The company specializes in home brewing and wine making equipment and supplies. (Kristin Morin, YourHub.com)

And might I add that homebrewing is definitely not for people who are impatient or get distracted easily. The first day of brewing usually takes anywhere from 3 to 6 hours (or longer) depending on the style of beer, what kind of equipment you have, and once again, how much of your equipment needs to be cleaned and sanitized. My favorite part of “Brew Day” would have to be all the tastes and smells. It was recommended to me by a fellow homebrewer that you should taste each step of the process and it really gives you an idea of exactly what you’re putting into your batch. And the smell that fills the room while you’re boiling is nothing short of delicious. The hardest part of brewing for me would have to be the waiting, though. There are so many stages that take weeks in between each one that it could take two months or longer for each batch to be completed and drinkable. This, I suppose, is why some people brew a new batch once a week so that they have something to do every week.

When the beer is finally ready to be consumed, though, there’s nothing like it. Each beer I’ve had a hand in brewing has tasted different to me than any other beer I’ve had. When discussing this with the head brewer of a well established local brewery he wished me good luck and told me the first batch of beer he ever made at home was so awful, he ended up tossing the whole thing onto his front lawn. Like any other hobby, homebrewing isn’t something you can master after your first, second, or maybe even third try. It takes a lot of effort and you may even want to give up from time to time, but it can be very rewarding. I know that I will be homebrewing for years to come with my silly dreams of opening my own brewery someday, but until then I’ll be just as happy brewing at home with my friends, hoping this batch of beer is even more delicious than the last one.

Good beers come in small batches.

You will find Susie working at LUCK in Trinity Groves where she enjoys beer and works as the assistant manager.

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